Raising Kids to Trust People but Distrust Corporations

My children are seven and 10 years old, and in teaching them to navigate the world, I find myself swimming against a great tide of distrust in the world. Despite data to the contrary, the prevailing notion among the middle class parents I meet through my kids’ suburban school is that children today simply cannot do the things that we did as children because there are too many lurking perils, principally in the form of bad people who will do bad things if given half a chance. I try to counter this notion, urging my boys to go outside, to explore the blocks surrounding our building, to make the world their own. Of course they know not to get into a stranger’s car, but I think they also know that most strangers are just people like us, people with kids of their own and jobs and places to go. Even when we talk about the people I represent in court (children charged with crimes and adults accused of abusing their children), I try to put bad deeds in the context of complex circumstances: “People are generally good,” I always tell them.

But then this: the 10-year-old is playing some seemingly innocuous game on the iPad when he asks, “Dad, what’s your email address?”

I start to tell him, then hesitate. “Why?”

“It says that if I sign up to get some emails, I can get free points in this game and…”

“Forget it,” I say. “It’s a scam.”

“What do you mean, a scam? They just want to send emails! And it’s the only way to advance to the next level!”

Of course. He thinks people are generally good. What could be the harm in sharing my email address with the folks who already proved how thoughtful they were by providing us with a FREE IPAD GAME?

So that is the dilemma: In everyday interactions, most people are good and kind. But when they organize themselves into corporations, most people are trying to get over EVERY TIME.

WWYD: The Stranded Car

A family in a car is stranded in front of a convenience store, and asks you if they can borrow your cellphone.

People Taking Advantage of Other People

If it's too good to be true, it is.

Credit Card Fraud, in Action

And so begins Andy Welch's story about how some fraudsters convinced him to mail his bank card to them and also give them his pin number. The things you willingly hand over when you're convinced you're talking to a trusted authority on the phone.

The Kid on the Subway Train

On my home from the office last night, a kid, about 10 years old or so, got on my subway car and announced that he was selling packages of cookies for a dollar to raise money to buy school supplies. I've heard this song and dance before, of course: A kid gets on the subway car and announces that he or she is selling M&Ms for his or her basketball team, or so that he or she can stay off the street and go to college. It's an easy story to fall for if you haven't already heard it a million times, which I have, and why I've come to train myself to ignore the announcement, burying my head into my book, or whatever I'm reading on my phone.

The Almost Free Cruise That Almost Was

Last night I got a phone call from an unknown phone number, and because I had 45 minutes before my friend's storytelling show started, I picked up. An automated voice welcomed me to a political survey. I was about to hang up when the computerized man voice sweetened the deal: "If you answer our 30-second survey, you will receive a free two-night, three-day cruise to the Bahamas courtesy of Caribbean Cruise Lines."

The Old Expired Student ID Scam

Tyler Coates often uses his expired grad school ID to save money, because he is smart and thrifty (“I have no shame, because I also don’t have a lot of money”). (He is not alone!)

While in line to buy play tickets this weekend, he encountered an old-student-ID-user’s worst nightmare—a ticket clerk who actually cares about rules and regulations, ugh. Tyler made it out alive with student tickets in hand(no expiration date on his ID, so lucky ) but a woman in front of him was REJECTED.

I lost my student ID many years ago, but I would never have ever used it to for EXACTLY THIS REASON, even though this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this happening, ever ever ever. Ever.

Fun Ways to Make Money Until You Get Caught: Art Forgery And/Or Theft

Another fun way to make money until you get caught.

The Case of the Mystery Haircare Products

What a scam looks like, maybe.